Ahead of the release of her virtual Savage X Fenty Underwear Review, Rihanna has faced criticism for casting Johnny Depp in the production. Depp will be the first man to appear in a “moment in the spotlight” in the fourth installment of the show, which is set to premiere on Amazon Prime on November 9. Los Angeles Times reports.
Depp’s cameo on the show follows contested libel suit between him and his ex-wife Amber Heard, when a jury ruled that Heard defamed Depp in an op-ed about The Washington Postin which she called herself a “public figure representing domestic violence” but did not mention Depp by name (in 2016, Heard filed for divorce from Depp and filed a restraining order, alleging that he physically abused to her). The coverage and online discourse around the case of Depp v. Heard larger conversations about abuse, survivors, and power.
The news that Depp had been cast in the show sparked an immediate reaction online; The name of Dept started a trend on Twitter with “Savage X Fenty” as some users shared their disgust at its inclusion. “Rihanna is so weird she’s bringing Johnny Depp on her show,” one tweeted. “No one talked about this man until the trial. The ONLY reason he is fit is to beat women. Like where is her head? Another tweet noted that Depp’s appearance on the show did nothing but add “shock value.”
People tweeted that they were disturbed by Depp’s inclusion as a model in the show, given allegations of abuse brought against him in the past. They also pointed to Rihanna’s own experience with domestic violence. Using the hashtags #AbuserxFenty and #DitchDepp, people online shared their disappointment in the decision to choose Depand send calls to boycott the brand. “Johnny Depp has been taken up as a hero by thoughtless right-wing misogynist extremists and now he’s been invited to appear in @SavageXFenty show. I never expected such a powerful woman to succumb to #Me too reverse reaction. Really disappointing @Rihanna,” wrote Drew Dixon, the producer and activist who came out to accuse Russell Simmons on rape.
TIME reached out to Rihanna, Amazon and Savage X Fenty, but did not immediately hear back.
This isn’t the first time the pop star has faced controversy over what she’s presented on the show. in 2020 she was criticized for using a song for the show that sampled a hadith, a sacred Islamic text; she later apologized via Instagram and the song was removed from all streaming platforms.
Rihanna has been vocal in the past calling out domestic violence and supporting survivors. After Snapchat promoted an ad that made light of the 2009 incident with Chris Brown, it called out the platform on its Instagram stories, writing, “I’d like to call it ignorance but I know you’re not that dumb!” Rihanna wrote. “You spent money to animate something that would intentionally shame victims of DV and made a joke out of it!!! This is not about my personal feelings because I don’t have many… but all women, children and men who have been victims of DV in the past and especially those who have not yet gotten out…. you disappoint us! Shame on you.”
Some people claimed that Depp is also an abuse survivor and that it was “heartwarming” to see Rihanna show her support for him. “You all forget that Rihanna is also a survivor of domestic abuse and is able to recognize other victims. She’s so genuine about it, honestly,” said a Twitter user.
Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty show, as well as other endeavors like her Fenty Beauty and Fenty Skin lines, have helped make inclusivity a cornerstone of her personal brand. Her Savage X Fenty shows in particular were announced for their various castings, which include a wide range of different races, body types, gender identities, and sexual orientations. However, by choosing Depp, many fans feel that Rihanna is undermining her own values associated with the Savage X Fenty brand. Like the writer Ella Dawson noted in a graphic uploaded to Twitter, “Savage X Fenty claims to ‘celebrate fearlessness, confidence and inclusion…how does a misogynist, racist, homophobic thug represent fearlessness, confidence and inclusion?’
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